Brexit. Why do Brits want Out of the EU?

Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 16 Sep, 2020 01:14 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
The Guardian view on Boris Johnson, Brexit and the law: wilful incompetence
The prime minister believes that provoking chaos will get him a better deal in EU negotiations. He is wrong

To outside observers of Boris Johnson’s government, it can be difficult to tell the difference between partisan provocation and rank incompetence. Both generate an aura of chaos. It does not help that members of Mr Johnson’s own cabinet also struggle to understand what is going on.

On a question as vital as the UK’s willingness to observe international law, there is confusion at the highest levels. Earlier this week, the Conservative frontbench voted for the internal market bill that repudiates aspects of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, thus reneging on a ratified treaty. Ministers who worry that they are breaking international law comfort themselves that the breach is insubstantial. It is only “limited and specific”, or so Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, told the Commons.

In parliament’s upper chamber, Lord Keen, advocate general for Scotland, was palpably uncomfortable with that caveated admission of unlawfulness. He suggested that it did not represent the official government position. But it did. Mr Lewis confirmed that he had been reading from a Downing Street script; Lord Keen, whose qualms had earlier been revealed in confidential advice seen by the Guardian, resigned on Wednesday.

Other lawyers with ministerial portfolios have found their own ways to resolve the tension between the oaths they took as legal professionals and fealty to Mr Johnson. Robert Buckland, the justice secretary and a barrister, has said that he would withdraw his support for a bill if it broke the law in a way that “cannot be judged finely or fudged”. That made it sound as if he is holding out for the government to perpetrate a more egregious offence before fully examining his conscience.

Suella Braverman, the attorney general, justifies the bill’s controversial clauses in terms that blend quasi-legal spin with political expedience. The EU has not been acting in good faith, she says. And parliament is supreme, especially “in the difficult and highly exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves”. In other words, the government should be free to do what it likes because it does not like what the EU has been doing.

In reality, the bad faith is on the British side. Those “difficult circumstances” arise from Mr Johnson’s failure to secure a deal on his preferred terms. He is rejecting the withdrawal agreement out of frustration and panic. He hopes the ensuing crisis will change the dynamic in the negotiations, prodding the EU into concessions. If not, it sets him up for a rhetorical attack on Brussels as the aggressor. He wants an impossible deal or to blame foreigners for withholding it.

That tactic contains two miscalculations. First, Brussels has not taken the bait. EU leaders are not supplying lurid condemnation to feed Mr Johnson’s narrative of grievance. They will wait patiently at the negotiating table. If the UK ends up without a deal, it will be Mr Johnson’s choice. Second, the Tory party is not so in thrall to their leader as to casually forget the law. Senior figures, including two former prime ministers, have criticised the bill. Backbench MPs demanded dilution of its most aggressive provisions.

Mr Johnson, seeing that he had pushed his luck, agreed. But it is doubtful that even an amended version of the offending clauses would repair the harm done to Britain’s reputation as a trustworthy negotiating partner. That does not bother a prime minister who is mostly interested in the domestic political dividend available from striking defiant anti-Brussels poses. Such flagrant disregard for international opinion compounds the damage.

Downing Street attempted a controlled detonation of the Brexit process to advance the UK’s position and achieved the opposite. In this case, there is no distinction to be made between provocation and incompetence. Mr Johnson’s EU policy is a nasty cocktail of both.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 17 Sep, 2020 04:50 am
@Walter Hinteler,
EU to refuse trade deal if Boris Johnson overrides withdrawal agreement, says commissioner
The UK will not get a free trade agreement with Brussels if it fails to uphold the Brexit withdrawal agreement, the EU’s trade commissioner has said.

Valdis Dombrovskis said that Boris Johnson’s government will have to “correct” its position before negotiations on political and economic relations can continue.

The commissioner’s comments, in an interview with German newspaper Welt, signal a tougher EU response to Mr Johnson’s controversial UK Internal Market Bill as he tries to force it through parliament.

The prime minister last night made a minor climbdown to buy off opposition from Tory backbenchers in the House of Commons, introducing an amendment to require any future breach of the withdrawal agreement to be approved in advance in a vote by MPs.

But this is thought unlikely to ease concerns in Brussels, which is threatening legal action over the provisions in the bill and upcoming finance legislation allowing the UK to waive paperwork and tariffs on goods passing between Northern Ireland and the British mainland and withhold information on state subsidies in contravention of the divorce agreement negotiated and signed by Mr Johnson.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has confirmed that the bill would break international law “in a limited and specific way” and on Wednesday refused to commit the UK to respecting the rulings of a dispute arbitration panel also agreed in last year’s withdrawal deal.

Asked if it was possible for the EU to negotiate with an administration which had indicated it may not uphold its side of any deal, Mr Dombrovskis said: “The behaviour of the British government is causing us concerns.

“If the UK does not comply with the withdrawal agreement, then there is no longer any basis for a free trade treaty between the EU and the UK.

“The British government must correct this before we continue negotiating on our political and economic relations.”

The development came as justice secretary Robert Buckland came under pressure to follow Scotland’s advocate general Lord Keen by resigning from the government in protest at the bill.

Former Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve said that Mr Buckland and his successor as AG Suella Braverman should resign rather than support legislation which breaks International law.

While Ms Braverman seemed to be an “enthusiastic endorser of this completely warped view of international law”, the justice secretary - who is also Lord Chancellor - was in an untenable position, Mr Grieve told The Guardian.

“He takes an oath of office to uphold or protect the rule of law,” said the former attorney general. “The rule of law includes international law.

“Although I feel some sympathy for ex-colleagues because of the position they have been put in, I think his position is untenable.

“He should, I’m afraid, have resigned on the day the bill was published. He may have decided to stay and try and moderate (the government’s position). I can understand that from a moral position but I think that’s wrong.”

Mr Buckland has indicated that he might resign his post if the bill was used to break the law in an “unacceptable and egregious way” and “in a way that cannot be fudged”, but insists that the government is not yet at that stage.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 17 Sep, 2020 01:40 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Boris Johnson makes fresh concession to Tory rebels
Parliament will be asked to override withdrawal agreement only if Northern Ireland protocol is undermined, says No 10
In a fresh concession to rebels, No 10 published a policy paper on Thursday setting out the circumstances in which it would use the powers, as well as confirming that the government would also seek to use the dispute resolution mechanisms in the withdrawal agreement at the same time.

The government’s deal with backbenchers, a group of whom were supporting senior Tory MP Sir Bob Neill’s amendment to give parliament a veto over use of the measures in the bill, came on Wednesday hours after the resignation of Lord Keen, the UK government’s law officer for Scotland.

In its policy paper on Thursday, the government explained that it will ask parliament to support the provisions in the relevant clauses “only in the case of, in our view, the EU being engaged in a material breach of its duties of good faith or other obligations, and thereby undermining the fundamental purpose of the Northern Ireland protocol”.

Under the Northern Ireland protocol, Northern Ireland would continue to enforce EU customs and follow product standards rules to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

No 10 also confirmed that “in parallel with the use of these provisions, it would always activate appropriate formal dispute settlement mechanisms with the aim of finding a solution through this route”.

Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street: Policy Paper
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 18 Sep, 2020 09:21 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Prominent international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has resigned as a special envoy for the UK government over the prime minister’s “lamentable” decision to pass the international law-breaking Internal Market Bill.

Earlier, Donald Trump's special envoy to Northern Ireland warned Boris Johnson against creating a “hard border by accident” on the island of Ireland through breaching the Northern Ireland protocol of the Brexit treaty.

Meanwhile, the European Union said Boris Johnson’s plan to override the Brexit deal has distracted from negotiations over future trading arrangements.

Commenting towards the end of a week where the UK government’s controversial Internal Market Bill has dominated headlines, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the prime minister’s plan was an “unpleasant surprise” which had “distracted very strongly” from trade talks ahead of the looming Brexit deadline.
The Independent
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 18 Sep, 2020 10:52 am
@Walter Hinteler,

>Full letter from Clooney to Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary<
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 21 Sep, 2020 11:45 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Theresa May to vote against government's Brexit bill
Former Prime Minister Theresa May has said she "cannot support" the government's plan to override parts of its Brexit agreement with the EU.

She told MPs the move, which breaks international law, would damage "trust in the United Kingdom".

The Internal Market Bill will be voted on in the Commons on Tuesday, having passed its first hurdle last week.

Ministers say it contains vital safeguards to protect Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The bill is designed to enable goods and services to flow freely across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland when the UK leaves the EU's single market and customs union on 1 January.

But it gives the government the power to change aspects of the EU withdrawal agreement, a legally binding deal governing the terms of the UK's exit from the EU earlier this year.

Ministers say this is a failsafe mechanism in case the EU interprets the agreement, in particular the section on Northern Ireland - know as the protocol - designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, in an "extreme and unreasonable" way.

But Mrs May, whose own withdrawal agreement with the EU was repeatedly rejected by the Commons when she was prime minister, told MPs that, if the Internal Market Bill were passed, "our reputation as a country that sticks by its word will have been tarnished".

The Conservative MP added that governments around the world had "trust in the United Kingdom", asking: "Where will that trust be in future if they see a United Kingdom willing to break its word and break international law?"

Mrs May also said there would be "untold damage to the United Kingdom's reputation".
Reply Mon 21 Sep, 2020 10:42 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Mrs May also said there would be "untold damage to the United Kingdom's reputation".

36 years of inaction on the organised paedophilia case, and three decades of BBC coverups of Jimmy Savile's criminal activity, and now the Andrew Windsor/Jeffery Epstein connection with child trafficking as well, and there's not much left to "damage" in the ol' Dart, Walter.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 21 Sep, 2020 10:49 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
UK's illegal draft bill a 'big tactical error,' says Ireland's Varadkar
Ireland's Trade Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar criticized the UK's controversial Internal Market Bill on Monday, shortly ahead of a vote by UK lawmakers.

The vote on the draft bill comes amid ongoing rounds of trade talks between the UK and the EU.

"I think [it is] a big tactical error by Britain," Varadkar told DW Political Correspondent Kate Brady.

"A country that values its sovereignty and values its independence and wants to be able to make trade agreements and treaties with other countries around the world [is] now sending out a message loud and clear that we're a country that maybe doesn't honor its treaties."
Despite the controversy over the bill, which also upset the EU, Varadkar told DW that he is remaining hopeful ahead of another round of trade talks between the EU and the UK.

"I think there'll be twists and turns. I think it is going to be a rocky road, but I have enormous confidence in our chief negotiator Michel Barnier to conclude these negotiations successfully, just like he did on the withdrawal agreement and the protocol before. "
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 22 Sep, 2020 07:36 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Thousands of Britons living in EU told their bank accounts will be closed
Thousands of Britons living in the EU will have their bank accounts closed or their credit cards cancelled due to the lack of a trade deal for after Brexit.

Lloyds, Barclays and Coutts, the Queen’s bank, have begun informing clients they will no longer be served once the transition period ends on 31 December, when Europe-wide banking agreements are expected to expire in the UK.

An absence of new arrangements for banking across the UK-EU border would require British banks to apply for separate licences in order to provide for customers in each of the 27 EU member states.

Some banks appear to have concluded that the logistical challenge of adapting to different sets of regulations would not make financial sense and have instead chosen to cease operating in certain countries.

Lloyds, which is Britain’s biggest banking group and includes Halifax and Bank of Scotland, estimates that 13,00 customers, based in Ireland, Germany, Portugal, the Netherlands and some smaller nations, will be stripped of their accounts.

A spokesperson said: “We have written to a small number of customers living in the affected EU countries to let them know that due to the UK’s exit from the EU we will unfortunately not be able to provide them with some UK-based banking services. We want to keep customers informed and offer advice on next steps.”

Barclays has confirmed that some of its Barclaycard credit-card customers living abroad have received similar notices, with Britons in Spain, France and Germany understood to be among those contacted. The credit card division is separate from the rest of the bank and current accounts are not thought to be affected.

“In light of the UK leaving the EU at the end of 2020 we continue to review the services we offer to customers within the EEA, and any impacted customers will be contacted directly,” a spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Coutts, an exclusive private bank which counts some of Britain’s wealthiest expatriates among its customers, said that its clients would have to make “alternative arrangements” for 2021.

Other UK-based banks, including Santander and NatWest, have yet to decide on whether they will continue offering their services to British EU residents.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 23 Sep, 2020 08:07 am
@Walter Hinteler,
First time ministers have admitted police will enforce need for ‘Kent access permit’.

Police to stop lorries without permits entering Kent in new 'internal border'
Police will patrol the Kent border to turn away lorries without an “access permit” in a bid to ease Brexit border chaos, it has been revealed.

Michael Gove said officers will use automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras and “other means” to block drivers – in what will be seen as an “internal border” in the UK.

The move would try to ensure “constituents are not inconvenienced”, he told MPs, after warning of 7,000-long lorry queues and two-day delays to cross the Channel.

Under questioning, Mr Gove twice refused to reveal how many of his promised 50,000 ‘customs agents’ – to help businesses prepare for a mountain of new red tape – have been recruited.

And he declined to say whether a new IT system will be “operational in January”, with just 100 days until the end of the transition period.

The Cabinet Office minister was setting out a new ‘worst case scenario’, which acknowledges 70 per cent of trucks may not be ready for new checks to cross the Channel.

Furious hauliers believe the government is blaming them after a letter from Mr Gove branded their failure to prepare “the biggest potential cause of disruption”.

In his statement, Mr Gove revealed that just 24 per cent of businesses were “fully ready” for the end of the transition period, on 31 December.

Damian Green, the former deputy prime minister and a Kent MP, warned the threat of 7,000-strong lorry queues would “send a chill” through local people.

In reply, Mr Gove said: “We want to make sure that people use a relatively simple process in order to get what will become known as a Kent Access Permit, which means that they can then proceed smoothly, because they do have the material required.

“If they don't have the material required, then it will be the case that through policing, ANPR cameras and other means, we'll do our very best to ensure that his constituents are not inconvenienced.”

Asked, repeatedly, how many customs agents are in place, Mr Gove claimed: “I cannot precisely state at any given time in a dynamic market how many people are doing exactly what job”.

He added: “What I can state is that the £80m that we've made available has not yet been fully drawn down.

“But any company that is in this area will know that come 1 January there will be an increased opportunity for their work, so this is an opportunity to expand and the government stands ready to help that.”
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 23 Sep, 2020 11:53 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Editorial - The Guardian view on new Brexit borders: the price of political fraud
The government has no intention of taking responsibility for a border fiasco. Instead, two targets are being lined up for blame – the companies that have to handle the trade, and the EU. Speaking to a parliamentary committee earlier this week, George Eustice, the environment secretary, claimed that “all the work in the world” was being done to prepare on the UK side, but that chaos could not be ruled out as a result of things being “slipshod and disorganised” on the continent.

The frequency with which the government attempts such cynical inversions of the truth should not diminish the shock at hearing a new one. The European commission has been well ahead of the UK in notifying ports about the hazard of new friction at the border and how to mitigate it. Meanwhile, British freight and logistics companies have been pleading with the government to pay more heed to the practical economic implications of Brexit choices that are driven by Eurosceptic dogma.

But Boris Johnson has no interest in dissenting testimony. If Alok Sharma, the business secretary, has doubts about the current plans (or has had doubts thrust on him by anxious traders), the message is unlikely to be forced on a prime minister who expects nodding subservience from his cabinet. Mr Gove has more clout in the government’s upper echelons, but he shows no sign of applying it for the purpose of shaking Mr Johnson out of his complacency.

Instead, the focus is on urging the private sector to do the heavy lifting that the government has been shirking all year. In July, the government promised to train about 50,000 new customs agents to satisfy an expected surge in demand. The number so far recruited is thought to be substantially less (Mr Gove refuses to give a figure) and brokers do not have resources to pre-emptively hire staff in the autumn to save the government’s blushes in winter. IT systems that are meant to lubricate new border controls are not yet up and running. It is impossible for some businesses to prepare fully for new regulatory requirements, because the details depend on the terms of a deal that does not exist.

In a letter to cabinet colleagues, Mr Gove noted that problems at Channel ports will arise “irrespective of the outcome of negotiations”. In other words, the Brexit model that is expected to disrupt the passage of freight, increase the burden of bureaucracy, reduce the volume of trade and slow the economy is one chosen by Mr Johnson. The “reasonable worst case” that ministers warn about is not some accident or unintended consequence. It is a function of the plan they hailed last year as a triumph. And if no deal is done, even worse scenarios are feasible.

Mr Johnson is creating borders where there were none, inflicting cost where none was previously levied, erecting barriers, closing doors and calling it freedom. As the moment of implementation nears, the fraud inherent in the whole enterprise is getting harder to conceal.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 24 Sep, 2020 07:48 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Labour 'unpatriotic' for opposing breach of international law, government claims
The government has accused Labour of being unpatriotic for opposing planned Brexit legislation that beaches international law.

In an angry parliamentary exchange Suella Braverman, the attorney general, said Labour's stance, which aligns with that of all living former prime ministers, was "anything but patriotic".

The government has admitted its Internal Market Bill would break international law in a "limited and specific" way, given it beaches the Brexit withdrawal agreement signed by Boris Johnson earlier this year.

Shadow solicitor general Ellie Reeves accused attorney general Ms Braverman of having "betrayed" defenders of the rule of the law in the Commons on Thursday morning.

"As a barrister she knows the role of the government law officers: they must uphold the rule of law without fear or favour. As her own political hero Margaret Thatcher once said: 'In order to be considered truly free, countries must have an abiding respect for the rule of law.'," she said.

"Yet there's a universal view amongst those who look to the attorney general to defend the rule of law that she has betrayed them."

But Ms Braverman replied: "I prefer to take a less emotional approach than the honourable lady. I'm extremely proud to be supporting this bill: it protects our country and safeguards the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

"The honourable lady's leader [Keir Starmer] called for patriotism this week but their opposition to this bill is anything but patriotic.

"How she can call herself an MP who sits in the United Kingdom parliament and at the same time vote against a bill that defends the unity of our country, maintains peace in Northern Ireland, and enables the United Kingdom, her country, to thrive - is not only illogical - but does a grave disservice to the nation's interests."

Sir Keir said this week he wanted the party to be "proud of being patriotic", telling voters: "We love this country as you do."

The internal market bill overrides aspects of the Brexit withdrawal agreement which impose new controls on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, which Boris Johnson signed up to.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 24 Sep, 2020 11:36 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
As an aside: Swiss to vote on whether to end free movement deal with EU
Sunday’s referendum with echoes of Brexit proposes limits on number of foreign workers

Switzerland will vote on Sunday whether to end its agreement with the EU on the free movement of people, in a referendum with echoes of the pro-Brexit campaign that led to Britain’s decision to leave the bloc.

The largest party in the Swiss parliament, the rightwing, anti-immigration Swiss People’s party (SVP), has called for the vote, arguing that the country must be allowed to set its own limit on the number of foreigners coming in to work.

However, polls forecast the SVP will not be successful, with one this week finding 63% of respondents opposed the party’s proposal – suggesting voters want stability at a time of economic uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Non-nationals account for roughly a quarter of Switzerland’s 8.6 million inhabitants and continuing immigration is forecast to swell the population to about 10 million over the next 30 years.

“Migrants change our culture,” the SVP’s referendum campaign website says. “Public squares, trains and streets become less safe. In addition, practically half of all welfare recipients are foreigners.”

The party says unemployment among Swiss nationals will inevitably rise as young foreigners are recruited to replace older Swiss workers, housing costs will increase, and schools, transport and public services will be overwhelmed.

Opponents say tearing up its free movement accord with the EU would rob the country of skilled workers and above all endanger the complex network of more than 120 bilateral treaties that Switzerland – a non-member – has with the bloc.

Besides allowing EU nationals to work in Switzerland, the treaties include agreements considered vital by Swiss businesses on free trade, data exchange, agriculture, research, police cooperation, civil aviation, road transport, tourism, education and pensions.

The government has said that if voters reject free movement, another six agreements that remove key barriers between Switzerland and the EU in trade, transport and other areas would also cease to apply under a so-called “guillotine clause”.

Citizens of the EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein made up 68% of Switzerland’s 2.1 million resident foreigners last year. The largest communities were from Italy, Germany and Portugal. More than 450,000 Swiss live in the EU.

The SVP has tried before to limit free movement, narrowly winning a 2014 referendum demanding immigration quotas. To the party’s fury, the initiative was subsequently watered down, promoting a degree of local preference in some economic sectors but crucially imposing no fixed limits.

The EU has not shifted on free movement since that referendum and remains categorical that any rejection of the principle by Switzerland would result in the country being excluded from the single market.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 25 Sep, 2020 08:19 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Red alert as officials admit Northern Irish ports will not be ready for New Year deadline
Average supermarket truck ‘will need 400 certifications’ to enter from British mainland

New Brexit border infrastructure at Northern Irish ports has been placed on “status red” because it will not be ready for the 31 December deadline when the UK’s transition out of the EU ends.

The checking facilities for goods arriving from Great Britain is required under the terms of the withdrawal agreement reached by Boris Johnson with the EU last year, which effectively created a “border down the Irish Sea” between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.

But the civil servant in charge of implementing the project told the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont that delays in procurement, planning and IT meant that “not everything will be in place” in time.

Border staff will be forced to use old buildings and a paper-based checking system in order to meet the additional regulatory checks required from 1 January under the withdrawal agreement, said Denis McMahon, the permanent secretary of Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Mr McMahon warned that the average supermarket lorry coming from the British mainland will require 400 separate certifications to enter Northern Ireland.

Unless the EU/UK Joint Committee, which meets in Brussels next week, reaches an agreement to minimise checks, “we will not be able to deliver the level of frictionless trade that we have today”, he told the Assembly’s scrutiny committee.

Mr McMahon said he and his colleagues had been left in an “impossible position” as they worked on a project that was openly opposed by DUP agriculture minister Edwin Poots.

He told the committee: “My message to you today is, despite monumental efforts by the team, not everything will be place by the 1st of January 2021.”

DAERA was legally obliged to introduce the new SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) checking facilities and would be acting unlawfully if they did not proceed with the work, said Mr McMahon.

“We are caught in an impossible position and the impossible position we’re caught in is that we do work to ministers,” he said. I absolutely believe in the democratic principle of working to ministers, it’s not just something I do as a day job, I absolutely believe in that,” he said.

“However, I am also absolutely required to comply with the law and what we found is because we have been put in an impossible situation as a result of the wider politics around this we find ourselves having to navigate our way through this process.

“It may not look pretty but we have been very open and very honest about where we’ve been.”

Mr McMahon said lack of clarity on what checks were required, due to the ongoing absence of agreement between the EU and UK on the issue, was severely hampering their efforts.

He told committee members the project had now been given a red status, meaning it could not be delivered as planned within deadline.

On Thursday, Mr McMahon said officials did not know what size of facilities were needed, as the level of checking requirements had not been agreed by the joint EU/UK Joint Committee on the operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Under the protocol, which is contained in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, Northern Ireland will remain in the EU Single Market for goods when the transition period ends.

That will required additional regulatory checks for animal-based food products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

Mr McMahon said it was crucial that the committee was able to agree to minimise the checks required.

He said if there was no agreement on minimisation the average supermarket lorry coming from Great Britain would require 400 separate certifications to enter Northern Ireland.

“In that context we can implement what we like but without help from the UK and the EU to simplify the processes involved we will not be able to deliver the level of frictionless trade we have today,” he added.

In response to Mr McMahon’s comments, a Downing Street spokesman said: “We have been clear that we continue to work with the EU in terms of the Joint Committee and the next meeting of that is in Brussels next week, when the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Michael Gove) will represent the UK.

“We will continue to work with stakeholders and others and work through the Joint Committee. We are working closely with businesses to ensure that everyone is ready for the end of the transition period.”
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 25 Sep, 2020 08:29 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Some explanatory background to the Swiss initiative:

The right-wing conservative SVP, which has been the strongest party in the country since the beginning of the century, has let the Swiss decide so often about their relationship with the EU that the cap initiative, which will be voted on this Sunday, hardly receives any attention.

That is surprising. Only two years ago, when the SVP was gathering signatures against the free movement of persons agreed with the EU, political scientists were alarmed: if the right-wing populists got their way at the ballot box, Switzerland would have to renegotiate all its agreements with the EU and would be in danger of losing access to its most important trading partners.

A "Swexit" scenario, then. For although Switzerland has never been a member of Brussels, this would be tantamount to withdrawing from a clearly regulated treaty. And the chaos that the British have experienced in recent months could repeat itself in Bern.

In February 2014, the SVP was successful with a similar initiative. The "mass immigration initiative" convinced 50.3 percent of the citizens. Here too, the focus was on the free movement of persons. The SVP wanted to control immigration with maximum numbers and quotas, which runs counter to the agreements with Brussels on the free movement of persons. And numerous other agreements are linked to this free movement of persons.

For years, the Bernese Federal Council had been looking for a way to implement this vote without jeopardising all the other treaties with the EU. The result was a soft-sounding compromise. Since July 2018, the "national priority light" has obliged the employment centres to make their job applications accessible only to regionally registered unemployed persons for the time being. This time advantage should give the Swiss an advantage over their foreign competitors. However, this regulation is far removed from the original quotas requested.

For the SVP this was a betrayal. The "national priority light" was vilified as a "bureaucratic monster hostile to business" and "unconstitutional". The current initiative to restrict the free movement of persons is now intended to enforce the original intention - and finally abolish the hated free movement of persons. This time, the voting text does not allow for any compromises.

But it does not look as if it will prevail. Polls show that the limitation initiative is far behind. Only a good thirty percent of the Swiss people who consistently vote for the SVP want to vote for the initiative.

In recent years, however, the party has suffered a number of defeats, both in polls and elections.

In the past, the SVP's campaigns have focused on provocation and outraged reactions. Without the fear of its political opponents, the right-wing party lacks oxygen, so to speak. This is one of the reasons why the voting campaign has been rather quiet in recent weeks.

If the party loses as badly next Sunday as the polls predict, the right-wing conservatives will be faced with a bitter realisation: the issue of migration will not win any more votes for the foreseeable future.
[With translated text from a report by spiegel-online.]
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 27 Sep, 2020 06:21 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Citizens of the European Union can continue to move to Switzerland without major problems.
In the referendum, the Swiss rejected a proposal by the right-wing populist party SVP, according to a TV report.

According to an extrapolation by Swiss television, only 38 percent were in favour of the initiative "For moderate immigration". (The margin of error is two percent. From a statistical point of view, this means that there is no chance of an acceptance after all the votes have been counted.)
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 28 Sep, 2020 08:03 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has held talks with his EU counterpart in Brussels in a bid to smooth over the acrimonious dispute over UK plans to rip up parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.

European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic told Mr Gove he should not use the threat to override the agreement as a “bargaining chip” – and said EU would “not be shy” in taking legal action. Mr Gove said the UK would push ahead with the Internal Market Bill.

It comes as Irish premier Micheal Martin said he is “not optimistic” Boris Johnson’s government will be able to strike a post-Brexit deal with the EU. He said his government was preparing for the “terrible reality” of a no-deal scenario at the end of 2020.

Gove: We won’t change course on Brexit bill

Michael Gove has said clauses of the Internal Market Bill that undercut the Withdrawal Treaty would remain – despite a demand from the EU that the UK government scrap them.

“We want to make sure that the Withdrawal Agreement is implemented in full,” Gove told reporters after talks in Brussels with European Commission’s Maros Sefcovic.

“But those clauses are there, they’re in legislation, supported by the House of Commons, as a safety net, if need be. And those clauses will remain in that bill.”

The Cabinet Office minister said Boris Johnson had been very clear that there needed to be progress in trade talks between chief negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost for the process to conclude in time.

Gove added: “We had a constructive meeting. We both were clear with each other where we were still some distance apart but we were both also clear that we wanted to bridge that gap.”

He added: “Maros Sefcovic and I are committed to using every moment available: every second, every minute, every hour, in order to reach agreement and I’m confident that we will.”
The Independent
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2020 10:38 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
As to expect, MPs passed the contentious legislation ("Internal Market Bill") at third reading by 340 to 256 votes.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 29 Sep, 2020 10:59 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Blow to UK car industry in search for EU deal
Car parts from Japan and Turkey used in the UK will not be treated as British, so some exports may see higher tariffs.

In a letter, Britain's chief Brexit negotiator says the UK has failed so far to get the car parts deal it wants, and "obviously cannot insist on it".

Having enough parts sourced within the UK and EU is key to a free trade deal.

In a letter to the car industry, seen by the BBC, chief negotiator Lord Frost says one of their key priorities - that parts and components from Japan and Turkey count as British in any deal - has been rejected by the European Commission.

This risks some UK automotive production attracting taxes on trade, known as tariffs, when exported to the EU, even if there is a "zero tariff" trade deal struck with the EU.

A separate draft legal text, also obtained by the BBC, lists the UK's request for manufacturing of electric cars, batteries, and bicycles to be treated leniently, and count as British, even if the majority of components come from elsewhere.

The letter says: "I am sorry to say that so far they [EU negotiators] have neither been willing to discuss these nor share any proposed text with us".

Both documents refer to the need, even in a deal, for UK manufacturers to prove that UK-exported goods are actually British-made, with a specified threshold of British parts, expected to be around a half.

Under the terms of an anticipated deal with the EU, any components from EU countries can count as British - something known as "cumulation".

But the letter reveals the requirement for that to be extended to other partners of the UK and EU, in particular Japan and Turkey, is being refused.

Much UK manufacturing is below the required threshold, although the reverse is not the case for the European Union. The problem is particularly acute for electric vehicles where an even larger proportion of the value of the car is contained in the battery.

"The commission has made clear that it will not agree third-country cumulation in any circumstances, which we regret, but obviously cannot insist upon," says Lord Frost's letter, written on 7 September.

Senior figures in the car industry expressed the view that the government could have chosen to insist on a deal that did contain such measures. But discussions on such subjects have been stalled by the impasse over fishing rights and subsidy powers.

The original Brexit deal negotiated by former PM Theresa May contained a route to minimise checks on what are known as "rules of origin".

That option was removed as part of the revision to the withdrawal agreement a year ago. But Lord Frost points out that the UK and EU27 car industries have jointly asked for such arrangements, including special consideration for electric vehicle exports.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 30 Sep, 2020 12:56 am
@Walter Hinteler,
UK intelligence data 'would be deleted' in event of no-deal Brexit
British intelligence about terrorists and other serious criminals would have to be deleted from EU systems if the Brexit trade negotiations were to collapse, a former EU security commissioner has warned.

Sir Julian King, who was the UK’s last commissioner in Brussels until last year, said that in security terms “the difference between a deal and no deal is significant” and the negative impact would be felt immediately.

“UK [intelligence] data that was held in EU systems could – indeed would – be deleted, if there was no data adequacy arrangement covering how you share data,” said the former British diplomat in a briefing organised by the Royal United Services Institute.

The UK would instantly become disconnected from a range of databases and systems such as the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), which shares data about prior convictions across all EU countries, he added.

Warnings about the UK losing direct access to EU security databases in the event of no deal have been made previously, but King’s remarks about deletion represent a little discussed risk. It would have an “immediate impact” fighting terrorism and serious crime across Europe, he said.

The Brexit talks have entered a critical phase with UK and EU negotiators currently determining whether they can enter the “tunnel” – the final, critical phase of high-level negotiations, which is conducted in absolute secrecy.

Both sides are hoping to reach a final agreement prior to the EU council in the middle of October, for a deal that would spell out what the UK’s trading relationship with the 27 country bloc would be when the transition period concludes at the end of the year.

Sir John Scarlett, a former boss of MI6, said data sharing between the UK and the EU and its member states had grown significantly in recent years and that it was critical in tackling terrorism and drug trafficking.

The former spy chief said that “after the attacks in the Bataclan in Paris in 2015” intelligence sharing about the attackers and their ringleader were critical to investigators scrambling to piece together information about the planning of the attack.

Investigators in both the UK and across Europe needed to track “personal movements, crossing frontiers, knowing where people are at any one time,” and “financial movements at the same time,” Scarlett added.

“The jihadist extremist threat is absolutely definitely still there,” Scarlett said. “Last year in the EU there were 21 terrorist related attacks of which three succeeded”. One was the knife attack at Fishmonger’s Hall in London Bridge, where two people who had been attending a conference on prison rehabilitation were killed.

Britain would also have failed to have negotiated a replacement for the European arrest warrant in the event of a no deal, Scarlett warned. “Operationally, it really matters … the ability to arrest serious criminal suspects in the UK, or elsewhere across the EU,” the MI6 boss said.

King said that he thought the prospects for a security deal – not generally thought to be a topic of controversy – were inextricably bound up with the overall negotiations, where there are sticking points about state aid and checks on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. “This is not an area where they [the EU] are envisaging separate arrangements,” King said.

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